Photo from Wikipedia.
Just a week after Russia beat the United States to the race to reach space a decade into the Cold War, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev ordered another rocket launched into orbit to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. In a ruthless rush to capture the world’s attention with another first, the idea to blast a living being into outer space — a dog, named Laika — became plausible, and Soviet engineers clamored to find a way to do it. They had only three weeks.
We’re collectors: stamps, postcards, matchbooks, magnets, the myriad small things that accumulate while traveling. Our far-flung friends send us photos of a treasure they came across, with a description of why it caught their eye.
Good luck stone, ancient mud fossilized in the North of the North, where few of us go, where few are born. I did not find it there: I found it in a gallery in Montreal where I go as often as I can. Call of the North? Called there by my son who studies there.
Photo by Ikhlasul Amal.
Photo by Allan Chatto.
It takes approximately one week to make a 9mm in Danao in the Cebu Province of the Philippines. The city and its residents have been celebrated for their skill at fashioning firearms, ever since they crafted guns for the resistance effort against the Japanese in World War II. In the 1940s and early 1950s, farmers armed themselves amidst agrarian unrest and the Maoist insurgency that followed, hammering parts out of junk found in scrap heaps. Continue Reading…
Photo by Erin O’Brien.
At the entrance to China, there is a gate. A wrought-iron gate, complete with golden dragons, golden spikes, and not-so-golden barbed wire wringing its perimeter. It’s a gate to inspire awe, to remind those who see it that they are in China, and China is powerful, goddammit.
With the help of four officers in full fatigues, complete with bulletproof vests and too-shiny aviators, the gate slides open, revealing a perfectly paved, perfectly lined stretch of road, reaching into the Tian Shen Mountains. It’s a far cry from the potholed, blockaded road that leads to the gate from Kyrgyzstan. Continue Reading…
Photo from Guentermanaus.
Two idle strangers stand and talk on a dock in the afternoon. The Negro River flows in front of them, wide and dark, nearly black. Behind them is Manaus, a city that hit its peak with the region’s rubber boom in the late 1800s. Once deemed “one of the gaudiest cities in the world,” it fell into a near-century of ruin after an Englishman smuggled rubber seeds out of the country. Plantations were established in Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and tropical Africa, and Brazil lost its rubber monopoly.
One of the men takes a drag from his cigarette and says, “My girlfriend is a prostitute here in Manaus. I watch her little boy during the night while she’s out working.”
The other nods his head as a motorboat pulls up to the dock. He tells the boatman in Spanish, the closest he can get to Portuguese, that he wants to cross the river. The boatman tells him how much. Continue Reading…
In late 2012 I spent 10 weeks in Mumbai at looking around, meeting people, wandering the city and collecting pictures, notes, videos and ephemera.
One new friend sent me a text message I especially liked, about the importance of having “FREE TIME ENERGY AND GOOD WILL.” This became my motto for the trip. Equipped with these three important things, I tried my best to see and learn. Continue Reading…
Photo by Susan Harlan.
Part One: A Sunken Ship
In 1942, the SS Normandie ocean liner caught fire in the Hudson River and capsized at Pier 88. She sank into the mud. She had been seized by U.S. authorities during the war and renamed the USS Lafayette, so she was not the SS Normandie anymore when she sank. Although she was salvaged, she was too expensive to restore, and so she was thrown away. Continue Reading…
Photo by Erin O’Brien.
Bukhara, Uzbekistan, looks a bit like Disney World. At its center, it’s perfectly clean, with burger joints and colorful lights dancing off of a man-made pond. Well-dressed, well-fed people lounge in the sunlight, sipping chai, or beer, and their pudgy children dip their toes in the water while their parents are otherwise occupied. It’s an oasis, and, for a moment, you can forget that it sits in the middle of a country with a personal GDP near that of India. And then you start walking. Continue Reading…